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Devizes to Westminster (DW) International Canoe Race 2013 (Easter weekend which was March 30th in 2013) A 125-mile non-stop race from Devizes on the Kennet and Avon Canals to Westminster via the River Thames. A bit of background on the people and equipment before we talk about the training and race execution. I’m Coleman Ruiz, a US Naval Academy graduate where I was a wrestler from ’94-’98. Upon graduation, and after the training pipeline, I entered the US Navy SEAL teams in the spring of ’99 and spent the next 12 years on active duty until the fall of 2011. During those years, I had the opportunity to do all sort of things all around the world. Fitness has been a huge part of the things I just love to do, thus DW sounded great to me! I met Raphael “Sol” Sollerer in the summer of 2012 just before his wedding to Christina, and as he was coming to work at The Program, a team building and leadership development company for whom I worked at the time. Sol is retired British Army Commando and Sapper (Royal Engineer). Sol has done as many, or more, interesting things in his career as I have and we got on well right away. We got down right away to the business of doing physical training together, and Sol hadn’t shut up about DW from the previous year. That is all I heard about, over and over again. To be fair, I was quite interested in it. At my house one day during a gnarly “phys” session, Sol asked if I wanted to race DW with him in a folding kayak. Of course, I said yes! Sol, having raced DW in 2012 in a K2, immediately went to work contacting folding kayak builders to find a building who could make us a semi-custom boat that would fit the two of us properly. Enter, Mark Eckhart of Long Haul Folding Kayaks in Cedaredge, Colorado. Mark responded to Sol right away and agreed to take his “Commando” and modify a bit for us, so Sol and I flew to Colorado in October 2012 to meet Mark so he knew we were “for real” and weren’t going to embarrass Long Haul while racing in his boat in England. We immediately trusted Mark when we saw his shop in Cedaredge. Mark’s shop is immaculate and the quality of construction and craftsmanship in everything single piece of equipment that he touches is nothing short of astounding. He is a master at his craft! We got right to it being measured and talking through options for the boat. Mark lent us a training boat that we used until January 2013 while training in Annapolis, MD. The training boat was older but still rock-solid and we loved it. All of our training was done either on the Severn River, West River, or Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis. The boat took a beating on rough days in the Chesapeake and didn’t flinch! In January 2013 Mark posted the race boat to us and Sol and I didn’t even want to put it in the water it is so beautiful. We wanted to frame it and put it on the wall! Ha! While training, we had many a boat builder stop to observe us putting the boat together and asking about the construction and purpose of the folding. We got so many comments on the beauty of the boat and its incredible detail in construction. We agree – the boat is simply badass! Well, we got to training right away, through ice and snow and nasty Chesapeake Bay weather. After a few last months of training, Sol and I packed up the boat, threw it in our checked baggage to England and jumped on a plane. First day out in England for a 34 miler on the Kennet/Avon the temperature was 2 degrees Centigrade and the canal and River Thames were running due to high precipitation during winter and spring in England. A quick not about DW (which you can read more about at Sol’s blog: http://britcdofitness.blogspot.com/). DW is not just a paddling race. DW is full on attack for 125 miles. There are 77 portages along the way that took us around locks, weirs, and bridges. Due to the weather, the banks of the canal and river are muddy and slippery. Every team will get in/out of their boat at least 77 times. For Sol and me it was about 60 times since we doubled, tripled, and linked-up many of the portages. When we approach a portage, webget out as quickly as possible, pull the boat out of the water, dragging it if necessary on the concrete or wooden dock, and over grass, mud, and pea gravel, shouldering the boat then running as quickly as possible around the portages. When arriving at the next put-in, we dropped (threw) the boat in the water, jumping in simultaneously in order to get going as quickly as possible. This goes on for the entire race, in and out at every portage, paddle as hard as you can to Westminster. It took us 25 hours and 11 minutes to complete the race and win the folding kayak division. Back to Mark’s Long Haul folding kayak. The boat not only held up through this beating. It hardly took even a blemish anywhere! Our boat was absolutely bomb-proof and we love it! Think about us pulling that boat in and out of the water with a combined 360 pounds jumping into the cockpit all day and all night. Sol weights 165# and I weigh 195# and when I say we jumped in the boat, I mean it. We were at attack pace! Bottom line is that Mark’s boats are absolutely the finest folding kayaks in the world. The boat is just awesome and folks all around England who saw us racing in our Long Haul just absolutely marveled at its construction and beauty. There were two Long Hauls at DW this year, and at the starting line there were people hovering around us watching us put the boat together. They just could not believe how awesomely constructed it was and that Sol and I were crazy enough to race DW in such a boat. Mark, Sol and I could never thank you enough for your quality of craftsmanship! I’ll never paddle any other folding kayak!
Coleman and Sol
UK
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Received the dvd last night. We watched the first half together and kept saying this is really good; really good. Definitely worth your having done it. Maria went to bed and I watched the second half of taking the kayak apart by myself. And, that's where I really got a lesson. Thought I had it all dialed in but realized I was doing things wrong in general And, in particular, as I recall, there are two ways to fold the kayak and the way I'm doing it, I'm not sure now if it's even correct. Regardless, the way Mark showed I can see is the ticket. Would like to suggest if you ever add to this dvd that you show it being done on a sandy beach and also include the unpacking and packing of the contents from the car and such. Also, we need to carry safety gear in addition to the two bags. Maybe an extra bag for sale that would efficiently carry two lifejackets, a throw cushion, a handheld, etc.? And, include this in the dvd as well. Also, Maria wondered about covering maintenance of the kayak. I'm so glad you sent us that video. There is so much valuable information in it. This is good work that you've done. This is a good and important addition to your marketing. Someone who is thinking about buying one will get a sense of the quality and attention to detail and such from this dvd. Your business is first-class and this just adds to it. (8/19/11) Great job. Keep it up. Thanks, Mike and Maria.
Mike
California
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Thank you for a fantastic job!!! The Expedition Hull is beautiful. Forty-five years ago my bride to be gave me a "Klepper Aerius Flagship" (Cost: $369.00) as my wedding gift. Thursday night we again put the kayak together but this time with your new hull. Don't tell anyone, but I think your hull is better! To bring a little humor around the lunch table, I attach a copy of the four page 1967 price list from the Hans Klepper Corp. which was included with my original Aerius.
Terry W.
California
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As I'm sure you know the build quality is Great! I took my time unpacking it just to take it all in but once I had looked everything over it only took me 25 minutes to assemble the boat! Marks instructional video was an excellent help! I'm one of those guys who learn better by watching than reading and the video made it easy. Please thank Mark and the crew for the excellent work on my boat, and thank you for your excellent correspondence keeping me involved with the build process and answering all my questions! You folks have truly excellent customer service! I can hardly wait to get it out on the water. Haley(my dog) is still not to sure about being in it but being a beagle she sure is snoopy about it.
Tom W
Canada
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Hi Mark, Tammy, My solo Klepper skin arrived safely yesterday. It looks fantastic. I immediately assembled the boat to have a look at it all fixed up and it literally looks like a new boat. I can't wait to get it out on the water. Thanks a million. Best, Jim (3/26/12)
Jim P
Connecticut
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Saturday was my maiden voyage. 25 knot winds kept us in protected brackish water off the intracoastal, but could not dampen my enthusiasm over the course of 3 hours of continuous paddling. The boat is spectacular, in almost every way an improvement over my old Klepper. Wow! Thanks very much for taking such care in the design and construction of what can only be called the Rolls Royce of kayaks. Even the local kayak dealer where we put in could not believe the beauty and workmanship of her. Her looks and her performance are absolutely of the highest possible standards. Also, you should know that not only is she being compared to my old Aerius 1, but also to a Kajak Sport Millenium, a very capable sea kayak from Finland and at 18'3" long and ~22" wide, a high end and very sleek and fast fiberglass boat. So my frame of reference and many years of experience underscore a qualified opinion. Your claim to make the finest kayaks in the world is fully justified. (12/11/12)
Bill S
New York
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I just got off the phone with David of Balogh Sail Designs. I should point out that both, David of BSD and Mark/Tammy of Long Haul have an outstanding customer service attitude. Yes, they are running a business, but they definitely make you feel you're becoming part of a larger family of kayak enthusiasts. I am impressed! DISCLAIMER: I am a regular customer, not affiliated with either company.
Doi N
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Hi, it's Damon V. I haven't bought any bling for my boat lately but it's time. I have to say that my Mark I is the most amazing piece of adventure gear ever. The places I've been and the fun I've had in my kayak are hard to imagine without it. And now I've started sailing it which brings it to a ridiculous level of fun. At one point this May I was fifteen miles from land and having the time of my life flanked by six pacific white sided dolphins.
Damon V
Missouri
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I just unfolded the new Long Haul Hull made for my Klepper and I must say, it is a thing of beauty to behold. It is so nice I wanted to bring it in the house and put it in the guest bedroom. I don't think any one else can make a hull as nice as you folks.
Robert R.
Washington State
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Boat Handles great! (Mark 2). Got into a nasty chop and windy conditions last week with the sail rig, but all went very well. Got soaking wet and BIG SMILES.
Steve C.
Nevada
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We recently did a trip to Sechelt Peninsuala on the Sunshine Coast of BC, just north of Vancouver. The kayak you made for us is just great. We had it well loaded with gear and it is amazingly stable and agile. I used to have a double Nauteraid, which is a great boat, but this one beats it, especially into the wind - it is much easier to get some speed and maintain it. The quality of the boat is just superb and it is real easy to assemble (with a little practice). People often comment on how well the parts are made, and I would agree.
Richard S.
Washington
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Thanks so much for everything. It is a pleasure doing business with people who genuinely care. Finally I'll be able to take my "Sea-Princess" out with me when I go paddling so she can witness the amazing things that I see when I'm out by myself. The experience for me will be even better for sharing the time with her.
Randy K
Florida
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Great video. I really enjoyed a peek inside the Long Haul shop. I tried fly fishing from our Mark II Quattro this weekend and it worked perfectly.
You Tube Customer
?
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"Mark, I wanted to let you and Tammy know that I am greatly pleased with my Longhaul Mark II Quattro. What a fine piece of work, a beautiful boat. The installation of the BSD Sail package was awesome; what a great marriage of companies, both with superior quality materials and design. I have some pics on my Facebook site of the boat under sail with my son joining me, so please take a look. Thanks again. "
Steve S.
California
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Noted while contructing our MK2...for the first time. Quality. Good instructions. Well thought our. Attention to the customer in all senses. This is a quality product made by people who know what they are doing and care about their customers. Thank you Tammy & Mark. (9/13/10)
Mike G
Southern California
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Howdy Long Haul, Steve here. Really been enjoying the boat! It is awesome and easy for me to use as a functioning paraplegia, I can get in and out with crutches. We use it a lot. (4/20/07)
Steve G
Arizona
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Hi, greetings from wyoming - we are your neighbors. We own a Klepper Aerius 2 for over 44 years already, so there have been a few necessary repairs. A couple years ago we ordered a set of keelstrips, ample cement and a few hardware items. For various reasons we kept putting off these lasted repairs, but finally saw the light this year. Just want to let you know how delighted we are with the materials and just as importantly the written instructions and verbal advise you fave us. We did the job ourselves. This year we ordered 2 Comfort Seats with lumbar cushions. The quality and fit of these seats for our ancient Klepper are just superb. We can imagine that the same quality is present throughout your product line. (10/22/06)
Heinz & Trudi
Wyoming
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The hull with the new deck arrived today - it looks great! I didn't realize how many little details were involved. Thanks very much for yet another instance of your great service. (1/29/07)
Russ K
Washington State
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Hi All--I bought our MK2 a couple of years ago and am living and working in Italy for a while. I recently used it in Venice in their annual Vogalonga paddle fest (see link below) - There were about 1,400 boats all paddled for about 35km. I've never seen so many fold boats in one place - there was a lot of interest in ours as I think it was the only Long Haul out there. Needless to say it handled well and was comfortable to use. We've taken it to Sardinia, Cinqueterra, and the river Po near Milan. It's never failed to perform and I love it! (link: www.vogalonga.com) (6/7/06)
David M
Colorado
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Just want to congratulate you on a truly quality kayak you build. I've had a double for nearly 5 years, sail her with twin Balogh Batwing sails absolutely fantastic. (6/6/06)
Andy W
United Kingdom
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Hi Mark & Tammy, After wearing out two Klepper Kayaks over the years, I was anxious to try out your product. During initial assembly I was impressed with the workmanship. The construction, finish and materials were far superior to any Klepper I had owned. On the initial tryout, I found it to perform flawlessly. It seemed to paddle very easily and smoothly. My former Kleppers seemed to have more drag and did not perform as well. The rudder also responded very well and was comfortable to operate. The seats were surprisingly comfortable, I hated to get out. I am proud to own such a superb product that was "Built Here In AMERICA". Keep up the good work. (1/28/04)
Jack & Jane O
Florida
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Hello All at Long Haul--We've had several outings already. Assembly always piques onlooker curiousity, and I use the occassions to give out your business cards. The re-skin and mods have gone well. It's 1966 all over again! Many thanks for your good work. (9/2/07)
Bruce L
New Mexico
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Long Haul, This e-mail is a long time in sending, but this is because we have recently had the opportunity to try out the new hull for our Klepper Aerius II that you made for us in May. We took the boat up to Rhode Island on vacation last week and tried out the hull for the first time in fresh and salt water. Great results! The hull was a great fit and the attractive color combination of red deck and black hull created a lot of admiration among veteran and novice kayakers alike. I especially like the addition of the grab handles, life-line and tie-downs. Thank you for your helpfulness, candor and attention to detail! (8/17/07)
Chuck B
Virginia
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WOW! This thing is what a Klepper should be! I assembled it for the first time, faster than I've ever been able to assemble my Klepper. Your fittings are a HUGE improvement over the slide-and-snap on Kleppers, which always seem to bind or not line up right without a lot of fighting. Thanks for the great boat, I love it! (3/21/07)
Brian W
Arizona
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I just wanted to send you a picture of me in my "Ute Kayak". I purchased it last year when my husband and I stopped by in your shop in Cedaredge and I have finally found time to enjoy it. And I do ENJOY it!!!! It has been a blast for a beginner. (7/22/08)
Alice B
Nevada
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My good friend, Mark Eckhart of Long Haul Folding Kayaks has all the specific know-how, through his DAILY INVOLVEMENT with the owners of folding kayaks over the past 15+ years. He is widely known and esteemed for his outstanding workmanship and inventiveness in the industry. He has the most capable, most accomodating service center in the USA, and has tackled hull recreation constructions for models even their makers could not make. He works truly in the SPIRIT OF GREAT MASTERS, a worthy successor, and his Mark II Folding Kayak, with a LH Mark I to follow soon, is the shining masterpiece, show ingenious new ways - for the greater long-term satisfaction of YOU, THE OWNER. And he offers the greatest value at a lower price, being in the USA.
Dieter S
East Coast--Former Klepper Importer and dealer
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(2009), Dear Long Haul,The L.H. Classic 2 is an amazing watercraft. I have taken it to a local high school for the technology students to assemble and take down to inspire them into engineering and/or design careers. Photos will be in the high school yearbook. I hope to have photos of the students, faculty and the L.H. boat for you. The expressions on their faces is priceless. I hope to order a L.H. Ute in 2010!
William S
New York
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We got our MK1 kayak about a week or so ago. I just wanted to drop you a note and thank you all for putting out such a high quality product. The workmanship is superb, the fit and finish is wonderful and it paddles like a dream. I used the kayak out in the ocean last weekend and even my eleven year old son (with very little previous paddling experience) jumped right in and had a grin on his face that wouldn't quit. Maybe I'll have to get a MKII so he and I can paddle together…… Thanks again,
Charlie
California
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Hi Mark & Tammy, I can't believe it! You continue to amaze me with the quality of your products. They are beautiful and so well made. Thanks again.
Dan
Colorado
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For me, a sixty seven year old youngster, the boat cart is as essential as my paddle. By using the boat cart nearly every time I go out, I don't worry or even bother to park close to a put-in. The cart goes with me in the boat. As an example of another good boat cart use, there is a beautiful place in Three Forks, Montana, where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers combine to form the headwaters of the Missouri river. A delightful State Park. I like to put in at the confluence, the river turns this way and that with a healthy current, and I spend a happy hour playing downstream in currents, eddies around and under rocks, side currents, enjoy the woods, birds, then take out at a small boat ramp about a mile downstream, load the boat on the cart and walk one mile back up the road along the river and do it all over again. The complete body workout. By the way, walking the boat any distance is easy when you loop a tie-down strap through a doubled bungee cord with hooks through the mast-hole, to take up any shocks, loop the other end around your shoulder and walk the boat, with hand on the bow, any distance without tiring. Happy paddling.
Ed
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